Last November the Mill’s Spaces Make Lace exhibition was a winner in the Small Museums category of the Museums and Galleries Annual IMAGinE Awards which were held at the new Chau Chak Wing Museum at Sydney University.
Such recognition is a huge honour for us.
This is how it happened.
Mc Crossin’s Mill Museum prides itself on telling local stories through its artifacts, and the Spaces Make Lace exhibition of historic lace is a part of a larger local story that is not widely known. There have been lacemakers working quietly away in the area for decades and for the last 20 years the New England Lace Group, led by Vicki Taylor, has been the focus of their activities Crossin’s Mill Museum prides itself on telling local stories through its artifacts, and the Spaces Make Lace exhibition of historic lace is a part of a larger local story that is not widely known. There have been lacemakers working quietly away in the area for decades and for the last 20 years the New England Lace Group, led by Vicki Taylor, has been the focus of their activities.
When I moved to Uralla to join the Group it became a lace resource offering historical information as well as teaching the contemporary use of traditional lacemaking techniques. Because of this my friend Janice Jones made me and the Group custodians of her important lace collection, hoping we would find a permanent home for it. The collection of more than 400 items dates from 1580 to 1990. To our great delight the Uralla Historical Society readily agreed to accept it for display at the Mill.
Part of the collection is now on permanent display in the Spaces Make Lace exhibition. In keeping with the Mill’s philosophy, every drawer and showcase tells a story in words and pictures, and most importantly, includes the makers of the exquisite lace as well as their over-indulged customers. Handmade lace is no longer part of fashion but the creative installations around the town on the opening weekend showed that lacemaking is still a living art form with exciting possibilities.
I did not expect to receive an award but was proud to be able to accept it personally. After 8 years in Uralla I had decided to attend the awards ceremony to catch up with former colleagues whose dedication and scholarship has been dispensed with in one way or another during the destruction of the Powerhouse Museum. Whether we left willingly or otherwise it was a devastating experience for all, but wonderful now to discover that so many of us have taken on exciting projects in what one prominent former colleague has labelled the ‘unregulated museum sector’, namely all the many regional museums which are often run on a shoestring and operated by volunteers for love of the objects and the stories they tell about them and their communities – exactly like the Mill.
Janice’s donation, and the support of the Lace Group and the Mill, all gave me the opportunity and freedom to make the kind of exhibition I had always wanted for the Powerhouse in 1988, and one that reflected how Janice herself always presented her lace whenever she gave talks about it.
The 1988 display can still be seen at the Powerhouse but it is a pale reflection of what we now have at the Mill, and I’m proud to say that Spaces Make Lace is the best project of my 44 years as a museum person. Janice Jones lived to see the Exhibition opened and to tell the gathering how happy she was that her lace has a permanent home in such a rural location.
The rest of the collection – more than 200 items- will soon be safely stored in The Stables Building as a research and teaching facility.
The Millers’ Tales – SUMMER 2023